3 Questions to Ask New Hires to Improve the Onboarding Experience
When I first became a manager, I had no idea how to onboard new hires. All I knew was that onboarding someone from outside the company who knew nothing about what we did or how we did it sounded like something that was going to take up a lot of my time.
But — ready or not — it was soon time to hire my very first employee.
As her start date approached, I began to strategize about how I could get her up to speed as efficiently as possible. I did what any strong Type-A personality would do and made a to-do list.
- Give her a tour of the office
- Help her log into email
- Train her on our systems and processes
The sooner I could get her trained, the sooner I could get back to focusing on my own projects, right?
How short-sighted I was. I was approaching it all wrong.
10 years later, I now know that a successful onboarding experience isn’t about ticking through a list of tasks; it’s about building the foundation of a meaningful relationship with your newest team member. A relationship that, over time, will hopefully prove to be both mutually beneficial and rewarding.
And you can’t fast-track your way through that. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Building a relationship with anyone, including your team members, takes time and thought — both of which I didn’t give enough of in my early days as a manager.
What is your preferred learning style?
We all learn differently. I learn best by doing, which makes me a kinesthetic learner. If someone is trying to teach me how to work within a new software, their best bet will be to briefly show me the ropes and then get out of my way so I can get in there and play around with it. If you put me in a training class and expect me to learn by listening to a presentation on it, I’m not going to retain much.
This applies to anyone you hire on your team, as well. If you craft an onboarding training plan that only includes visual learning when the hire is actually a kinesthetic learner, then you’re both in for a long and bumpy road.
So how do you know your new team member’s preferred learning style? You ask! After all, they know themselves better than anyone else, and they’ll be happy to tell you what works best for them.
Then, all you have to do as their manager is give them the information in whichever way they prefer to receive it. Simple as that.
How do you prefer to be recognized?
Receiving public praise makes me wish that a hole in the floor would open up and swallow me into the depths of the unknown. I hate it that much.
Now, imagine you’re my boss. I’ve recently done some killer work that you want to recognize. You bring it up publicly at a team meeting or, even worse, at the annual all-company awards meeting. Is my desperate desire to disappear the visceral reaction you were hoping to elicit from me?
I don’t think so.
The point is that not everyone likes to receive praise in the same way. I’ve had plenty of colleagues who felt the complete opposite way about praise. Their life was an awards stage and they were happy to perform as often as possible.
Recognizing a new team member for great work is supposed to make that person feel good. It’s supposed to reiterate how pleased you are with their contributions and signal that more of the same is welcomed by you as their team leader.
By asking your new team member how they like to be recognized (publicly vs. privately, one-on-one vs. in a small group, written vs. spoken, etc.) you are indirectly communicating a few things to them.
First, you’re communicating that you prioritize recognition. And if you’ve ever worked for a boss who never said ‘thank you’ or ‘great job’ for anything, you’ll know how important this is in and of itself.
But it also signals that you care about recognizing others in whichever way will be most meaningful and pleasant for them. It shows that you are self-aware enough to know that it’s not all about you.
What motivates you to do your best work?
We are all motivated by different things. For me, I’m at my best when I have a clear line of sight to how my work will make an impact. The person next to me might be motivated by opportunities that provide high visibility and recognition. Someone else might be motivated by climbing the corporate ladder and getting their next promotion.
As a leader, it’s your job to gain an appreciation of what makes each of your people tick, whether that be money, title, impact, visibility, or something else entirely.
How to Help Your Team Figure Out What They Value Most in a Job
Because no job or company is perfect all the time.
Work to uncover whatever it is that speaks to their own personal sense of purpose, and then put them in a position that enables them to do more of that kind of work.
There’s a benefit here for you as the leader, too. There’s almost always more work that needs to be done than there are people to do it. So when those unplanned projects come along that you need volunteers for, approach people who might be motivated to go above and beyond based on how that work appeals to their motivations. Help them to see what’s in it for them.
I write a lot about trust, and I do that because I think it's the single most important prerequisite to exceptional leadership.
For anyone to follow you in any meaningful way, they first have to trust you. And, before they can trust you, they have to believe 3 things about you.
First, they have to believe in your competence; that you’re qualified to do the job that you do. Next, they have to believe in your integrity; that you do what you say you will do. And, third, they have to believe in your benevolence; that you care about them as people.
The fact that you’re even asking the 3 questions we discussed demonstrates your competence in managing a team to them. Most leaders won’t spend the time or energy to do this.
If you then take their answers to heart and apply them in how you teach, recognize, and assign work then your team will see your integrity by way of your follow-through.
And, finally, the simple act of asking these questions shows that you care about them as people. It signals to them that you have their best interest at heart and that you’re committed to flexing your style to their preferences. That’s benevolence.
Together, these 3 questions come together as the foundation of trust that you and your newest hire will continue to build your relationship upon.
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